SEA Europe: EU maritime fund is needed to spur development of green technologies

As the envisaged transformation of the European waterborne transport would require significant investments, SEA Europe has proposed the creation of a dedicated EU Maritime Fund as an alternative to extending the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) to shipping.

As explained, setting up such fund would incentivize the development of green technologies, mature sustainable alternative fuels and integrate them onboard ships. It would also deploy green infrastructure and financially stimulate first movers.

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SEA Europe – representing European shipyards and maritime equipment manufacturers – said in a new position paper that it fully supports the ambitions of the European Green Deal (EUGD). These ambitions are said to be in line with those of the European Waterborne Technology Platform whose Strategic Research Agenda aims at providing and demonstrating zero-emission solutions for all main ship types and services before 2030 which will enable zero-emission waterborne transport before 2050.

An important ambition of the EUGD is the transformation of waterborne transport into a zero-emission mode of transport. This transformation will require significant investments from the entire waterborne sector in Europe, including in research, development and innovation (RDI), on top of the investments already carried out so far. In this respect, the association proposed to set up the dedicated fund.

According to Sea Europe, these significant investments need to be underpinned by a legal framework that offers legal certainty to the waterborne sector, including the maritime technology sector. Without any legal certainty, companies will refrain from making investments. This legal certainty is also key with regard to an EU taxonomy of green technologies and alternative fuels.

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The association has also called upon the European Commission to support “technological neutrality and a goal-based approach”, including for dual-use technologies, to avoid a curtailing of clean technologies and stimulate rapid development of alternative fuels for waterborne transport.

“Due to the large variety of ship types and ship trades, there is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to transform waterborne transport into a zero-emission mode of transport. Hence, all options for clean technologies, alternative fuels and their optimal integration need to be researched, developed, supported, and facilitated. Any legislation and policy actions should stimulate flexibility, secure legal certainty and refrain from imposing or prescribing specific technological solutions or specific alternative fuels,” Christophe Tytgat, SEA Europe’s Secretary-General, commented. 

SEA Europe added it is encouraged by the commission’s intention to use trade policy as a means to support the EU’s ecological transition and welcomes the EUGD’s recognition of the need to ensure fair and undistorted trade policy, promote EU standards, and enforce full compliance with EU regulations and standards of products placed on the European market.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has further increased international political tensions and growing trade protectionism, in times of high political ambitions such as the European Green Deal. The outbreak has also illustrated the dangers of Europe being or becoming too much dependent on foreign industries. This is certainly a serious risk in shipbuilding,” Tytgat warned.

“The European Maritime Technology sector is heavily impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and the economic consequences of this crisis will be felt much longer than in many other sectors. By restoring Europe’s competitiveness, including in maritime technology, the European Green Deal has the potential to become a game changer and should therefore not be seen exclusively as a ‘Climate Deal’ but also as a Strategy for Growth,” he concluded.

Finally, SEA Europe called upon the commission to develop appropriate measures and policy actions to achieve the EUGD’s ambitions in close dialogue and cooperation with the relevant stakeholders from the waterborne sector, including from the maritime technology sector.

SEA Europe represents close to 100 per cent of the European shipbuilding industry in sixteen nations, encompassing the production, maintenance, repair and conversion of all types of ships and floating structures, commercial as well as naval, including the full supply chain with the various producers of maritime systems, equipment material, and services.